Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Postscript | Summary

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Summary

Charles Dickens relates observations that he made at a dinner given for him in the New York in 1868. He expresses his "high and grateful sense of my second reception in America" and uses words like "generous" and "magnanimous" to describe Americans. Dickens explains that he has seen many changes in the United States since his first trip there, 25 years prior. Despite expectations to the contrary, he informs everyone that he will not be writing a new book on America. Instead, Dickens notes, he will write in his journal and inform his countrymen about the positive changes in America and will publish this testimony as a part of all the forthcoming editions of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Analysis

Dickens wrote/gave this speech more than 20 years after he wrote and published Martin Chuzzlewit and also came to America for the first time. While the U.S. had undergone many changes in the interim, probably the most drastic and influential change was the abolishment of slavery following the Civil War. It stands to reason that for Dickens, who was so opposed to slavery, this would very much alter his opinion of goings-on in the United States. Additionally, he received a lot of negative press from the United States following his portrayal of the country and its citizens in Martin Chuzzlewit. While Dickens did write satirically about England as well, his depiction of the United States did not go over well among U.S. citizens. This postscript is also probably an attempt to make peace and create more goodwill between himself and the American public. The fact that he ordered the postscript to be printed in every forthcoming edition of book means that he likely hoped that it would ease the sting of his portrayal of American culture.

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